One thing I’ve learned over the years is that one person’s staple grain can be totally exotic, foreign or just plain unnecessary to the next person. For instance, my mom always has some Cream of Wheat in her pantry rotation. That’s one I skip, preferring steel cut oats or hull-less barley for breakfast (although lightly buttered and salted Cream of Wheat with a poached egg on top is one of my beloved childhood comfort foods).
In the last few years, millet has crept into my grain rotation and is now a very definite canning jar staple (along with short grain brown rice and quinoa) in my kitchen. The thing I love about millet is that it has a multitude of applications. When it’s steamed, it become light and fluffy, a cross between polenta and broken rice. When toasted, it becomes a nutty addition to pancakes, waffles, muffins and scones.
It was the Metropolitan Bakery (Fork You toured their factory last summer, here’s the video from that day) that opened my eyes to toasted millet and the ways in which can add the perfect gentle crunch to baked goods. They make an amazing millet muffins, and it was those muffins that inspired me to add toasted millet to anything that would stand still.
Toasting millet is really easy. Most of the time, I do it in small batches in the toaster oven, cooking it at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes on a dry baking sheet. The only thing to remember is that to get the best crunch from your millet, you need to make sure you toast at least half an hour prior to stirring the millet into the batter, so that it has time to cool and firm up. Also, don’t worry if it looks like it’s smoking, it’s actually steam that occurs as the moisture inside the millet dries and escapes (of course, if it’s starting to look blackened, then it is smoke. Use your judgment).
If millet is one of your staple grains, how do you like to use it? For those of you for whom it’s new, do you have any questions?
My adaptation of Metropolitan Bakery’s millet muffin recipe is after the jump…
These muffins are particularly good with a dab of Honey Lemon Marmalade.
Millet in Jars and Muffins
- 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup millet lightly toasted (see instructions above)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk or runny yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup of brown or maple sugar honey or maple syrup are also good sweeteners for these muffins, just omit the milk in that case to account for the liquid.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 12 cup muffin tin (with butter or cooking spray). You can use muffin liners if you prefer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
- In a two-cup measuring cup, combine milk/yogurt, eggs and vanilla (if you add the milk/yogurt first, the measuring cup does double-duty, allowing you to measure and mix in the same vessel. I'm always looking for ways to save on dishes and this is one of my favorite tactics). Set aside.
- Cream the sugar and butter together. You can do this in the bowl of a stand mixer, in a regular bowl with a hand-held mixer or a pastry blender.
- When the butter and sugar is well incorporated, add in the rest of the wet ingredients. Mix to incorporate. Add the dry ingredients in 3 stages, mixing well before adding more.
- Spoon evenly into the 12-cup muffin tin. When all the cups are filled (this batter doesn't rise a ton, so it's okay to fill them fairly full), bang it gently on the counter a couple of time to settle the batter. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are a burnished brown and a tester stick comes out mostly clean.